Microsoft Unicorns

Microsoft India President Anant Maheshwari and Corporate Vice-president Rajiv Kumar at the launch of Microsoft's Kaizala mobile application in New Delhi, July 26. Maheshwari said Microsoft India will focus on nurturing start-up opportunities and unicorn firms in 2018. (IANS photo)

HYDERABAD — Armed with Intelligent Cloud and Edge capabilities, Microsoft will give a renewed thrust to nurturing unicorn firms and the start-up community in India next year, Anant Maheshwari, the company’s India president, said here Dec. 14.

"For us, the growth verticals will clearly be banking and finance, manufacturing and IT/ITeS sectors. But the next goal we have added to our focus areas for 2018 is to empower unicorn companies and the start-up community," Maheshwari told IANS.

A unicorn, a term coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, is a start-up company valued at over $1 billion.

Microsoft currently caters to nearly 5,000 tech start-ups and over 200,000 large and small-and-medium businesses in India.

The Microsoft "Accelerator" program is helping start-ups help boost their enterprise readiness and go-to-market activities.

"We have seen a fundamental change in India in the last 12 months when it comes to connectivity. So the focus in 2018 will also be on over 50 million SMBs who are increasingly using Cloud solutions, while adopting digital payments and GST," Maheshwari emphasized.

Microsoft globally, including in India, has been uniquely positioned and has done a lot of work over the last 40 years to build a massive partner eco-system that is serving SMBs.

According to a recent ASSOCHAM-Deloitte joint study, adoption of advanced business digital technologies can lead to increase in revenues by up to 27 percent, increase in employment by up to 84 percent, and enhanced access to international markets by up to 65 percent for SMBs in India.

According to the apex IT industry body Nasscom, India's growing SMB segment is set to spend big to upgrade their digital infrastructure in the next few years.

For Microsoft India, the coming year will again be about skilling more people in disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence so that the country can have a talent pool to realize its Intelligent Cloud and Edge dreams.

India now offers a $100 billion opportunity if we can leverage Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge solutions across industries.

"The largest Intelligent Edge market today is the mobility market. Cloud is now connected to Edge devices. There is not just one device that is smartphone but everything – from airplanes to cars – is now being connected in the age of Internet of Things," the Microsoft India head told IANS.

"For us, the word Intelligent is not an accident but a movement to take India from a mobile-first country to an Intelligent Edge-first country," Maheshwari said.

 "AI is getting democratized, becoming more inclusive from agriculture to healthcare. We look at AI not just as a product that you switch on but something that is embedded in whatever we do and develop," added Maheshwari, who completed a year at Microsoft India in September.

Having set up India operations in 1990, Microsoft currently employs more than 8,000 people in the country.

With a modern workplace, business apps, the AI infrastructure and Cloud coming together, it becomes an end-to-end play for SMBs to become truly software firms of the future.

"Modern workplace is soon going to be all around us and Microsoft looks forward to enable enterprises own their New-Age workplaces by providing them Intelligent Cloud and Edge capabilities," Maheshwari said.

(Nishant Arora is at Microsoft's Hyderabad campus on an invitation. He can be contacted at nishant.a@ians.in)

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